In 1977, the Mets made one of the worst decisions in franchise history by shipping off Tom Seaver on a riverboat to Cincinnati. The centerpiece of the deal from the Reds’ point-of-view? Doug Flynn. A career .238 hitter, there weren’t many glorious days in Mr. Flynn’s career. But after an excavation deep and extensive enough to make Indiana Jones take notice, this cavern of mediocrity produced one shiny diamond. That diamond is our subject of appraisal today on “Glory Days.”
Dateline: June 12, 1979. Joe Torre and the Mets are playing host to the very team they conspired with at the stroke of midnight two years before: John McNamara’s Cincinnati Reds. At the bottom of New York’s um…“juggernaut” lineup that day was second baseman Doug Flynn, who was looking to make his old team pay for giving up on him. It would help that Tom Seaver wasn’t pitching that day.
Who was pitching that day was Cincy’s Bill Bonham, who was going up against New York’s Pete Falcone. After getting out of the 1st unscathed, Falcone was rewarded with a hot start from his offense. Joel Youngblood singled and stole second base, and Frank Taveras followed with a single of his own. Fan darling Lee Mazzilli followed with a run-scoring double to put the home team on the board, and Richie Hebner’s groundout made it 2-0. Then, with two outs and the bases loaded, our man in the spotlight, Doug Flynn…popped out harmlessly to second to make it still 2-0 Mets.
Flynn chose the 4th inning to break out with a surprising triple to the left center gap, but while Falcone, Youngblood, and Taveras would make a fantastic name for a law firm, they couldn’t provide a legal way to get Flynn home, stranding him at third with a strikeout and two lineouts.
Not much happened until the top of the 6th when the game got away from Falcone. Dave Collins and Junior Kennedy led off with singles, then after Dave Concepcion’s sac bunt, George Foster’s RBI groundout cut New York’s lead in half. Dan Driessen’s single tied it at 2-2, then after he stole second, future World Series MVP Ray Knight was issued an intentional walk. Paul Blair delivered Cincinnati the lead with a single that chased Falcone. His replacement, future Mets torment Mike Scott, didn’t fare much better, letting both inherited runners in on Vic Correll’s double. All of a sudden, a 2-0 lead was a 5-2 deficit.
A deficit, however, that was about to be made up in the biggest way possible. John Stearns got the party going in the bottom of the frame with a double to left, and Steve Henderson followed by drawing a walk to chase Bonham. Doug Flynn hit a sharp groundball that second baseman Kennedy couldn’t handle, and a potential double play was turned into a bases-loaded gift. Pinch-hitter Ron Hodges drew an RBI walk to make it 5-3, then Youngblood’s popout was followed by a two-run double from Taveras. Mazzilli was walked intentionally to set up a force at every base…or provide Hebner the chance at his own two-run base hit.
Up 7-5, Willie Montanez put up a sac fly to left field that Foster mismanaged (the first of many blunders he would make at Shea Stadium), putting another run on the board. In his second trip of the inning, Stearns hit a flyball to center that was actually handled for the second (fourth?) out of the 6th. Henderson didn’t waste his second chance and drove in run #9 on a single.
This brought of Flynn, a man whose power at the plate was rivaled by literally everyone else who has ever played Major League Baseball. At this point in his career, the 28-year-old had hit only three home runs. So none of the 9,805 paying customers that day were surprised when his flyball to center field fell short of the wall. What surprised them was how Flynn started flying around the bases, how Montanez crossed the plate, how Henderson rolled right in behind him, how Flynn rounded third and started barreling toward home, and finally, how Flynn crossed the plate for a three-run inside-the-park home run. Not so all of a sudden, the Amazin’s’ three-run deficit was an impressive 12-5 lead after a record-setting 10-run 6th inning.
Dale Murray put the Reds down for the rest of the game, turning in three relief innings spoiled only by a solo home run by Foster. When the dust had settled on this June afternoon, the score read Mets 12, Reds 6, and the hero of the day was none other than Doug Flynn and his 3-5, 2 R, 3B, HR, 3 RBI performance.
1979 proved to be Flynn’s power surge, as he would hit two more home runs that season for a whopping total of four, more than half the power numbers from the rest of his career (7 HRs). He finished the year hitting .243 but playing stellar defense at second base, and his skills were recognized the next year when he won his only career Gold Glove. Flynn left the Mets after the 1981 season and finished his career in 1985 after short stints with the Rangers, Expos, and Tigers. He’ll never be a member of the Mets Hall of Fame, but after all these years…nah, there really was nothing good about that trade. We should’ve kept Seaver. Sorry, Doug.
June 12. A good day for Doc Ellis in 1970 (throws his LSD-induced no-hitter) and Cooperstown, New York in 1839 (Abner Doubleday is erroneously credited with inventing baseball). Also a good day for William Shakespeare buffs in 1997 (Queen Elizabeth II reopens the Globe Theatre). A bad day for Massachusetts in 1775 (put under martial law by British general Thomas Gage) and Mr. Gorbachev in 1987 (President Reagan challenges him to “tear down this wall”). A great day for Doug Flynn in 1979.